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The Only Customer


Walking along Fourteenth Street
I came upon a rare new clothing store.
Billy Joel’s bouncy mock-doo-wop
“For the Longest Time” played
invitingly. A male employee, I’m
guessing the owner, greeted me
warmly and explained the M.O.: nothing
over forty bucks. A smart salesman,
he took one look at me and said
we don’t have a petite section
but look around — they’re sprinkled
through the store.

I keep sewing up tiny holes
in my current crop of cotton tops;
the fibers are so flimsy now, the knits
so thin. I wanted to fall in love with one
of his tops. I so wanted my needs and his
to match. But the clothes were shapeless
drapy synthetic knits good for a season
or two, the kind that catch on every hangnail.
I roamed the store trying to find something
I liked at least a little, and almost apologized
when I walked out as the song’s last chords
faded. I give the store a year, tops.

Before it moved to Herald Square and traded
itself up into the world’s biggest store,
Macy’s occupied a skinny building a few doors
down from this store; until recently,
when it got covered over with one too many
coats of paint, you could still see the ghost
of the name above the entry, complete
with the star that represented Rowland
Hussey Macy’s tattoo, circa 1858.

A mile up the avenue, Macy’s is now a ghost
of its former self, stocked with limited selections
of shiny things for status-hungry tourists.
I remember real stores packed with goods,
cardboard boxes in the back with all
the odd sizes, knowledgeable women
with glasses hanging from a chain
on their chest, finding the items
people needed. I’d cry but you can’t find
a handkerchief for sale in this town anymore.


  1. Linda Berg Linda Berg August 16, 2023

    This is a wonderful poem. Michele, rich with detail. I can relate with the desire for well made clothing.

  2. Carol Carol August 14, 2023

    Great imagery…funny and sad ….loved it!

  3. Pat Gray Pat Gray August 12, 2023

    Great poem, Michele! Wonderful imagery!

  4. Pearl Broder Pearl Broder August 11, 2023

    I love your attention to historical detail in everything you write! I totally identify with your experiences.

  5. Kim Farrar Kim Farrar August 11, 2023

    What a great, fun poem. Love the end. So funny and lively.

  6. Ann McCormack Ann McCormack August 10, 2023

    Wonderful poem! As a native New York shopper, I wish I had a hankie right now! 😢

  7. Chuck Japely Chuck Japely August 10, 2023

    That’s the original Macy’s?? Wild.
    Can’t even find a handkerchief to cry in — Loved it!

  8. Gail Bemko Gail Bemko August 10, 2023

    What an incredible poem! As someone who enjoys shopping in person and is also petite, this totally resonated with me!

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